As a single woman with no children (and no upcoming plans for any), I have very little opinion on this topic. I’ve always been a “to each his own” on the matter — Circumcision is, oddly, one of the rare parenting (or lack thereof) decisions upon which I’ve not yet passed judgment. My non-opinion might be changed, though, by a couple recent articles in Science Daily.
The first Science Daily article discusses an intervention review published by Wiley InterScience and available from The Cochrane Library that discusses clinical trials between 2002 and 2006 in Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda that included more than 11,000 (presumably adult) men who underwent circumcision. The results of the trials indicate that circumcisions reduced male HIV infection rates by 54% over a two-year period when compared with non-circumcised men. The researchers say that the 54% figure is a best-estimate average, and that the true reduction in male HIV infection among circumcised men would be 38 – 66%. More research must be conducted to determine if male circumcision will reduce HIV infection rates among their female partners.
Because the foreskin contains cells, called Langerhans cells, that have receptors favorable to HIV, current thinking is that the mechanism by which male circumcision reduces male HIV infection rates is that the tissue containing these cells is removed during cirmcucision.
The second Science Daily arrticle gives us more health news on the benefits of circumcision, describing a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine that built upon previous research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (part of the National Institutes of Health) that found that circumcision reduced the heterosexual transimission of HIV by more than 50%. The New England Journal of Medicine paper describes an experiments showing that circumcision reduces the male infection rates for HSV-2 (which causes genital herpes) and HPV (a group of virii that cause cervical cancer and genital warts). Their experiments with approximately 5,000 circumcised and non-circumcised men showed that circumcision reduced the male infection rate for HSV-2 by 28% and the male HPV infection rate by 35%. The experiment did not show a difference in the infection rate for syphilis between the non/circumcised.
Much like vaccinating your daughter again HPV , if there’s the slightest chance that something you do for your child (i.e. circumcision) could prevent a likely terminal illness or a life-long painful/embarrassing one, how could you not do it?